Tuesday, February 24, 2015

An Unexpected Surprise

This is Christian's Dad narrating Christian's blog (in case anyone had wondered if Christian was updating his blog...)

I was returning home from a trip to Houston on Saturday night. My flight had a layover in Dallas. Upon touching down in Dallas, I took my cell phone off airplane mode. It always takes a minute or two to get the connection and then another couple to download any new messages or emails I may have received.

I received a text message with the following photos and text message.

"Dinner with the Seba Family. This is Sister Seba (via text message). We love your son!"

It made my night. He looks happy and healthy and with all that food he might come back weighing a few pounds more than when he left.

This following weekend I will be in San Diego for a trip. I promise to not go hunting him down, but it is sure tempting. :) Instead, I'll drop off a care package to the mission offices and leave it at that.

"I'm Syrian Orthodox. I'm not Catholic... Thank God!" - Our neighbors

I really enjoy Christian's e-mail subjects. 

This week has been an interesting week. No new investigators, sadly, but got a few lessons in that really helped. 

Remember last week how I said Teeba would probably get dropped? She got dropped. In Iraq her religious group was heavily persecuted and those fears are deeply rooted inside of her. We told her to call us when she's ready, and she said that she would join the church when she was ready. I hope that's soon. It was really heartbreaking to drop her. It takes a lot of courage, I learned, to drop someone. 

Suhayla's boys got the Priesthood. Mario and Marceleno are now a teacher and a deacon, respectively. She has been working on getting people to church (she described it as "fishing"). She sat down with one of our investigators, Sandra, and told her how amazing baptism is and that this church is what she needs. She's so awesome. 

Speaking of Sandra, we're working with the ward to get her boys some more friends so that they can come to church. We're also working to get her to accept a baptismal date. We had a lesson at the San Diego temple with her and she said that it looked like something she had seen in a dream once. She's wanting to join, but she wants her entire family on board. We're working on meeting with her husband to get him added as an investigator. 

Basim is awesome. We taught him about the Plan of Salvation and he ate it up. He's been coming to church, reading, praying, and keeping all his commitments. He had a few clarifying questions to ask us about the Fall of Adam but was perfectly fine with it all. We're going to move up his baptismal date for sure. 

Our Ward Mission Leader, Brother Oakes, got released this past week and will be the High Priests Group Leader. We had a wonderful dinner with him and the rest of the group leadership on Sunday night to discuss what they can do as high priests to get more involved. We're 90% sure that the former Elders Quorum President, Brother Seba (who is the embodiment of awesome!), will be the new WML. 

Brother Seba, by the way, is awesome. I know I've said that before but it's true. He's a Chaldean convert of several years who speaks perfect English and Arabic. We love having him over for lessons because he can relate to the Chaldeans we talk to. He and his wife helped us teach Sandra at the temple on Saturday, then afterward they took us to dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant named "Aladdin Cafe". We ordered several large plates of food and ate family-style. We had fresh-baked flatbread, hummus, baba ghanoush (an eggplant spread that is amazing when done right and awful when not), kebab, and baklava. Best part of it was the fact that we had leftovers the next day!

By the way, given the quote you may be wondering "Why don't you go talk with your neighbors and get them to join?" Elder McCombie (who went home the same day I arrived) and Elder Poffenbarger tried several times. In fact, pretty much our entire complex has been tracted out to no avail. Most of them just aren't interested or don't want to keep commitments. Our neighbors think we're the coolest thing since sliced bread, though, and so they stop and say "Hi" to us and give us chocolate every now and then. 

I think that about covers it for this week. It's really flown! Thank you all for your letters; I love getting mail!

-- Elder Hawkes

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Valentine's Day for the Missionaries

Christian was on splits with another Elder last week. While they were at dinner, a young member girl gave him a Valentine.

In their apartment complex are some Elders who cover the Young Single Adult Ward in the area. One of the Elders was the companion to Christian while in the MTC. I guess there are some pranks and teasing that goes on between the Elders. They sent a Valentine to the Elders with a couple of suckers attached to a letter. This is the letter they wrote.

This is what Christian wrote about this:
"Also, YSA [Elders]  is kind of our "victim". Just yesterday my companion and I saw that we needed to get rid of a box of Frosted Flakes. "Why don't we just leave it on YSA's doorstep and it can be their problem?" So we did! They like Frosted Flakes, though, so it's alright. 

We mainly do that because my MTC companion, Elder Harris, is part of that companionship and they live nearby. If/when he leaves, I guess we'll have to start doing stuff to/with the Spanish Elders above us. :P"

"If you thought Isaiah was confusing, try reading it in Arabic!" - Elder Poffenbarger

First off, apparently my account was hacked. So I've done some rearranging of stuff. *Shakes fist angrily towards the Devil* Whomever hacked my account is really really immature.
This week was crazy weird. We had MTE's on Wednesday and then transfers on Thursday. For those of you that don't know (so 90% of you), MTE's are when the mission president gathers a few different zones together for some instruction and then scrambles us all up for a day. I wound up with Elder Wilson, who happens to be from my stake! The challenge was to invite everyone to be baptized in the initial contact, be it in a street contact or otherwise. We got two people who said, "I'll consider it." Then on Thursday, I wound up in the Arabic North area with Elder Jackson. There's a lot more English contacting up there than in the Arabic South area, which was kind of weird.
Suhayla got confirmed on Sunday, which was awesome. We had 5 investigators show up to church (Basim, Sandra and her two boys who are above 8, and Najib). We met with Najib yesterday and he said that he wants to learn more but he has bad eyesight and so he "can't learn more". :( We also met with a less-active, Bro. Pacheco yesterday, and we talked about acting with real intent and being candid without shouting your problems from the rooftops.
This week is "do or die" week for Teeba; she isn't willing to come to church or get baptized, but she wants to still meet with us, so we're going to tell her either she chooses to progress or we have to drop her. I really hope she chooses the former, but she has her agency.
I think that about covers it. Thanks to all those who wrote to me. Keep doing so! :D
-- Elder Hawkes 

Elder Christian Hawkes
California San Diego Mission
7404 Armstrong Place
San Diego, CA 92111

Q & A with Christian

Christian took the time to answer a few questions that have been asked:

1. Language is coming. Iraqi dialect is weird. But I'm getting used to it (I kind of have to!). 

2. Writing isn't an issue; it's reading and speaking that I am having to work on. The Arabic Book of Mormon is written like the Quran in terms of lettering, which makes it difficult. The Elder's Quorum president, Bro. Seba, has had difficulty reading it and he's a native. 

3. The temple is in La Jolla, which is about 30-40 minutes away by car. Speaking of, only 3-7 more weeks until we get a car!

4. El Cajon is more like Lehi and Orem. (I had asked him if El Cajon is a suburb similar to Sandy and Murray where they are so connected you can't tell the difference or if they are more spread apart)

5. (What have you been doing to stay fit) Running. Lots and lots of running. 

6. What is fun? How do I fun? :P Yes, it's a lot of fun. Even in companionship study we'll play off of each other sometimes and see what happens.

It's good to hear that Christian is getting along with his companion and enjoying the work he is doing.

"The final plague of Egypt? Sharknado." - Elder Poffenbarger

This was actually sent on Feb. 10, but I'm a bit behind in getting it up.

Is it Tuesday? Really? Are we sure of that? I remember Tuesday being last week. 

Time really does fly, folks. It's super cliche, but I can't believe I'm a month into this. 

Suhayla, Mario, and Marceleno were baptized last Friday. Suhayla, we found out, has a fear of drowning that manifested itself in her grabbing the sides of the font when being baptized. We wound up having another person get in the font with her (Bro. Farajian, the man who baptized Marceleno) to help her and he had to practically force her down into the water the last time. After the baptism, though, she said she felt so clean and that the Spirit was surrounding her. We had one investigator show up, Basim, and we talked with him about it and he said it was awesome. 

Speaking of Basim, he's our next focus in terms of baptism. We met with him on Saturday and asked how it went and he said he loved it. He then turned to Elder Poffenbarger and asked, "When can I get baptized like that?" After the shock subsided a little bit, we agreed on a date of April 18th. He's loved coming to church and meeting with us, and he's been keeping commitments as best he can. :D

I gave a talk in church about pride and obedience. Everyone said it was great and one of the counselors said I'll be talking a little more often (yay...?). Elder Poffenbarger and I then wound up teaching a member missionary class using Preach My Gospel. We talked about our purpose as missionaries and having a plan. Somehow the topic got on to words that have changed meaning. To demonstrate that some words are defined by their connotations, I stood up and said, "This church is a cult!" Everyone in the room stared at me aghast for a little while, and I had to explain that a cult is merely a group of people following one thing or having the same interests. Given that the bishop was in the room, I'm not sure if I disqualified myself from giving talks or not. 

We went and did service yesterday for a family in the ward with the Zone Leaders. We were helping remove cabinets, tile, and their sink in preparation for a kitchen remodel. The sink was a nice, heavy, cast-iron sink that can hurt if you drop it on something, as Bro. Scott (the homeowner) found out. He was trying to lift it out and lost his grip. It dropped right on his thumb and broke off a good part of the nail. He just looked at it, said "Yeah, that's broken" and shook it off before stepping aside to get it wrapped. How he was able to withstand such seemingly intense pain I'm not sure. Elder Poffenbarger got his finger cut up when removing tile, then Elder Scott got his finger cut up too. Elder Dimond and I were the only ones that remained safely uninjured, which either means everyone else was reckless or we weren't doing enough!

I think that's it for this week. Feel free to write to me whenever you can (both emails and physical letters). I get mail every Tuesday. My address is now included as my signature.

-- Elder Hawkes
Elder Christian Hawkes
California San Diego Mission
7404 Armstrong Place
San Diego, CA 92111

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"Hello, hello, Marhaba, hello, ahlan wu sahlan, hello...." - Every single Chaldean in El Cajon

First off, last P-day was super crazy. I didn't get to send as much as I was planning to in my email or send as many letters as I wanted to because I was kind of pressed for time. 

So, let me start off by discussing what I was going to say last week!:

- THE 11TH PLANET IS COMING!!!!! At least, according to some guy on the street we talked to. He talked about how the Earth's plates are shifted and tilted in ways they shouldn't be (which is evidenced by the crazy weather and the fact that the Moon is sideways) and that a calamity is coming. There's an 11th planet, Zenu, that is on its way around the two suns we have and will cause a 90 degree shift in the plates, causing major catastrophes (this isn't a new event; the parting of the Red Sea is somehow evidence of this happening). Obama, Russia, and China all know and they're trying to tell people, but the 1% won't let them. And something about spark souls, service-to-self souls, service-to-other souls, higher-density aliens coming down to us... That blank look you're probably giving your computer screen is the exact same look we gave him. He was nice enough to give us a website: zenutime.com. I can't look it up because I'm not allowed to, but if anyone dares to go on there let me know if it's as crazy as I think it is. 

- We've got a few investigators. Teeba is an older Iraqi lady and a John the Baptist follower. She's hesitant about coming to church and getting baptized, but we're working with her. She LOVES the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, but she's not too big on the Book of Mormon. Amir was an older gentlemen we met on the street who wanted us to teach him. He ate it all up, but he wasn't too good with keeping commitments (more on that later). Akheqar is an Assyrian man who was very accepting of our message. We haven't been able to get ahold of him lately, but we're doing our best. Suhayla is the mother of Mario and Marceleno and has been taking lessons for six months. 

Now, onto this week!

Amir got set up for a baptismal date!... and then got dropped. :( We visited him the other day and his wife said they're both too old and too sick to read, come to church, etc. It's heartbreaking to drop people like that, who have accepted your message and then don't keep commitments. I feel like there should be a part of the Area Book that includes, "People who we've dropped for now but will be contacted in about six months" because at this point, it would be full. 

Suhayla (Mario and Marceleno's mother) called us this week. She said she promised God that she would give up tea and threw out all of her black tea. She also called us to say that she wants to get baptized! She's getting baptized this Friday at 6 with her sons (their baptism had to be pushed back for reasons). 

We contacted a young man (we think he's in his late 20's) named Basim. We met with him and his mother and they both were very accepting of our message of the Restoration. He was saying throughout the lesson, "This is true! I know it is!" He attended church with us this past Sunday and thought it was amazing. 

We also contacted a Muslim family, Noora and Osama. Muslims are very... difficult to teach, but not for the reasons you'd think. In the case of Noora and Osama, they were very accepting of the message of Jesus Christ being the Savior and all of the Restoration. But in order to teach a Muslim family, we need to follow a few guidelines and have our mission president join us to over the questions with us:

Arabic Speaking Elders (R to L)Elder Greer, Elder Jackson,
 Elder Hawkes, Elder Poffenbarger
- We cannot directly proselyte to Muslims unless 1) We are in a community that has "religious freedom" (basically if they have Muslims and a bunch of other religions living together without problems) or 2) They approach us and ask to learn more. 

- We need to get permission from the head of the household (the father/husband) in order to teach them. 

- They cannot be planning to move back to the Middle East or to any country without religious freedom (Muslims who convert to Christianity are generally not accepted by their community and their lives would be in danger if they moved back). 

- We need to be not teach to groups of young male Muslims or young men who look like they'll be a problem. 

- If anything happens (e.g.: We get threatened or attacked), we are to cease all contact with them and report it to our leaders/mission president. 

If the answer to any of those questions is in the negative, we cannot continue teaching them. 

Fortunately, President Schmitt came with us to Noora and Osama's house and they are going to be staying in San Diego and want to learn from us. They're very accepting of us and very willing to hear what we have to say. 

Tonight we as a zone have the opportunity to go to the mission president's home for his daughter's birthday party. After that, we've got a dinner appointment (we're going to Rubio's with a member family) and then it's back to proselyting for the rest of the week!

Please write to me and email back when you can. I love hearing from you all! 

-- Elder Hawkes